By Minahil Makhdoom
ISLAMABAD: Leader of the House in Senate Syed Shibli Faraz on Friday said that the National Action Plan for Coronavirus (COVID-19) prevention and management has been developed adding that only two cases were detected so far.
Responding to point raised by the Opposition, the leader of the House said one of the cases was reported from Karachi and other one from Islamabad but both the patients were in stable condition. More than 120 samples have been tested since February 1st, he added.
Shibli Faraz said the government was on alert mode over possible spread of Novel Coronavirus from China, Iran and other COVID-19 affected countries. A high level multi-sectoral national task force of International Health Regulation (IHR) 2005 was convened on Jan 20 to review the state of preparedness and identify gaps in the country for different core capacities of IHR.
Under the chair of SAPM National Core Committee was regular monitoring the situation and preparedness measures, he added.
Shibli Faraz said sporadic suspected cases, which were being identified by the Airports, ground crossing and referred cases were investigated by NIH teams and Provincial Diseases Surveillance and Response Units (DSRUS).
He said a total of 80,994 cases have been reported with a total of 2762 deaths. More than 99 per cent of the cases were reported from the mainland China, he added.
He said the cases have been reported from a least 38 other countries. Moreover, Shibli Faraz said field epidemiologists have been deployed at Disease Surveillance Response Units for contact tracing.
He said the mechanism for screening of all the passengers traveling at all the international airport, land crossings and seaport from other countries, especial those from China and Iran has been reviewed and has been strengthened through provision of additional logistics i.e, equipment, human resource, PPE and trainings. Standard guidelines and SOPS have been developed by the Ministry for screening of the cases and has been shared with the all the stakeholders, he said.
He said special counters have been established at all the major International Airports of Pakistan at arrivals terminal where health declaration forms with travel history to china, Iran or other COVID-19 affected country and their contact details of all travelers were being enforced for identification of the suspected passengers by health officials and providing risk communication.
He said hospitals in all the major cities of Pakistan have been identified for isolation of suspected patients and isolation room/wards have been established. Diagnostic facilities have been made available at NIH and at Peshawar, Quetta, Karachi and Lahore, he said. Public Health Emergency Operation Centre has been activated under the umbrella of Ministry of NHSRC for reviewing the situation on daily basis, risk assessment and follow-up of the case, he added. He said public awareness message have been developed and aired Health helpline for COVID-19 was being established. Dedicated staff was following up with passengers through dedicated telephonic mechanism on regular basis, he said. Regarding COVID-19 preparedness measures in Balochistan, Shibli Faraz said for the purpose of coordination, a high-level meeting was held on February 24 at NIH to discuss the preparedness measures for COVID-19 in the country.
The meeting was chaired by the SAPM/ Minister of State for Health and attended by the provincial chief secretaries/ health secretaries and representative of Pakistan Army. In order to strengthen ground crossing at Taftan, Chaman and Torkham borders Baluchistan Government has imposed emergency at bordering areas of Baluchistan with Iran, he said.
He said the movement of all the incoming and outgoing passengers was being closely at Taftan border, while the border was being closed and school vacation have been extended Quarantine facility has been established with provision of additional staff at these borders.
A team of NIH has been deputed for quick assessment of Taftan, Chaman and Torkham borders, he said. He said necessary kits have also been provided besides training of technical staff for provincial public health lab, Quetta. Provision of thermal scanners, if required for these areas was under consideration, he added. Shibli Faraz said mobile molecular and diagnostic lab was available at NIH to be deployed if required. Capacity building of the different cadres of staff on Rapid Response, Contact Tracing, Risk Communication, he, said.
Earlier speaking in the House, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Khan Swati urged the chair to convert the House into Committee of the Whole so the Special Assistant to PM Dr Zafar Mirza could brief the senators. Leader of the Opposition Raja Zafarul Haq said there should be proper planning for meeting of the committee of the Whole.